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Wounded spirit still a winner

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Memo to: Steve Yzerman, Team Canada/Tampa Bay Lightning GM

From: Martin St. Louis, Lightning captain

Dear Boss: Thanks a &^%$&! lot for the Canadian Olympic Team snub. P.S: You’re welcome.

Yes, in one of the more compelling stories of the 2013-14 NHL season, St. Louis shook off the soul-crushing news of not being named to the Oly squad heading to Sochi next month by scoring twice in the third period — the game-winner and an empty-netter — to help Tampa, the ‘other’ team Yzerman has put together, knock off a lifeless, listless Winnipeg Jets squad 4-2 at the MTS Centre.

"That’s why he’s a champion," said Lightning head coach Jon Cooper afterward. "That’s why he has a Stanley-Cup ring, that’s why he’s our captain. To go through something like that and respond the way he did, I can’t say enough about him.

"He’s a human being and I know he really wanted to make that team. But he did what he did best: when the whistle started he came to play. Good for him. I’m really happy for him."

MEANWHILE, IN RIVER CITY...

The St. Louis’ performance is a juicy subplot that will grab headlines in Florida and across the NHL. But here in River City, the big story might now be this after the Jets lost their fourth straight: do booster cables work on humans?

"We have to realize we’re not losing by accident," said Ondrej Pavelec. "I mean, the way we play, we can’t expect to be successful.

"I don’t think we showed up tonight. (Tampa’s) a good team, good system. They stick with the system, all four lines play the right way, the way hockey is supposed to be played. We didn’t have much. We get what we deserve. We have to realize people pay for tickets for this, to see this one? I’m not sure.

"It’s disappointing, that’s for sure," added Pavelec. "A day off tomorrow... actually we had day off today, so we got two days off. We have to keep going. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. But if I’m a fan tonight, I wouldn’t be happy, that’s for sure."

WHAT’S IN A NUMBER?

The Jets registered a measly 14 shots on goal Tuesday, the 10th not coming until Eric Tangradi hit Anders Lindback with 11:15 left in the game — an occasion that brought a Bronx cheer from the disgruntled home fans. That they were even in the game until that point was remarkable, but the Jets did score twice on the power-play — Olli Jokinen on a deft feed from Mark Scheifele while Winnipeg had a two-man advantage and Dustin Byfuglien with a knuckler past Lindback that put the home side ahead 2-1 in the second.

But Ondrej Palat evened the game before the second intermission, setting up the St. Louis dramatics in the final frame.

"We come back from the road where we lose three games... we come back to our building in front of our fans and we get, what, 12 shots on net?" said Mark Stuart. "That’s what’s most embarrassing for us. It was right there and we didn’t wake up the whole game.

"It’s hard not to sound like a broken record here. I mean, I don’t really know what to say, to tell you the truth. I feel like I get in front of you guys and say the same thing every game. It’s exhausting. It really is. It’s a low point, it definitely is."

MORE UGLY

The loss dropped the Jets to 19-22-5. And in the aftermath of some telling and critical comments by Penguins players in a Pittsburgh newspaper following Sunday’s 6-5 loss — comments that pointed to the Jets having no discernible system — the handiwork against the Lightning was hardly evidence to the contrary.

"We let Pav out to dry," said Scheifele. "If it wasn’t for him, we would have lost by a lot more. It was embarrassing. We weren’t forechecking as a group of five. It just seemed like a mish-mash out there and no one knew where everyone was going. It just didn’t look like a team game."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPEdTait

John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press

Winnipeg Jets' goaltender Ondrej Pavelec (31) saves the shot as he gets tangled up with Tampa Bay Lightning's Martin St. Louis (26) during first period NHL action in Winnipeg Tuesday.

Live Winnipeg Jets Coverage Twitter bird

History

Updated on Tuesday, January 7, 2014 at 8:03 PM CST: Updates score, changes headline.

9:01 PM: Updates score, changes headline after second period.

9:59 PM: Updates final score, changes headline.

10:50 PM: Changes photo.

12:12 AM: Adds post-game story, changes headline.

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